Sunday, May 16, 2010

Recipe Review: America's Test Kitchen Brownies

America's Test Kitchen is my new favorite show; it even trumps 30 Rock, which is saying something because I LOVE Tina Fey. Through a two-day marathon of watching episodes online, I think I've learned more about cooking than I would have ever learned by looking things up on Wikipedia (my love for Wikipedia is also very deep - just don't tell my professors that).

After watching a gajillion episodes, I decided it was time to take my new-found inspiration to the kitchen and make something I've never tried to make before, and my sights landed on the ever-decadent chocolate brownie.

The reason that I've never made them before is because my mom always just got the box mixes and discouraged me from trying to make them from scratch. She said the "boxes were better." Well, just because she made this claim didn't mean that I believed her. (Although I'm learning more everyday about how many things my mom is right about: bring a sweater everywhere, take vitamins, get enough sleep... the list is never-ending. But in the case of brownies, I still thought she was terribly wrong.)

So today, I put two and two together: if my mom says that making good brownies from scratch is difficult, and America's Test Kitchen perfects difficult-to-perfect recipes - gasp! - why don't I make America's Test Kitchen Brownies?!

Making the brownies was not too difficult. I made sure I had everything ready to go before I started, because some of the steps were somewhat time-sensitive, but I double-checked everything in the recipe so I'm fairly confident that I got everything correct.

Even with all of my careful recipe-reading and ingredient measuring, these brownies just didn't work for me. When I took them out of the oven, the insides were still really gooey and looked undone. I put them back in the oven for a fairly substantial amount of time, and this gooey appearance did not go away. I ended up putting them in the oven for so much longer that they turned out really, really chewy (and not in a good way) and tough around the edges - I could barely get the knife through them when they cooled completely. Perhaps if I took them out of the oven at the recommended time they wouldn't be so tough, but I'm pretty sure the insides wouldn't have been done if I had followed that course of action.

I'm not going to lie - I was pretty disappointed that the first recipe I tried from my new cooking idols turned out to be a flop. But I'll try more of their recipes before I solidify my opinion about them. In the meantime, I'm still on the search for an excellent brownie recipe so that I can prove to my mom that homemade is better!

In case you want to try it for yourself (maybe you'll have better luck than me), here's the recipe:

Chewy Brownies:
From America's Test Kitchen


1/3cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped
4tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted
1/2cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2large eggs
2large egg yolks
2teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4teaspoon table salt
6ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces


  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Referring to directions in Making a Foil Sling (related), make sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
    2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
    3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
    4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.


  1. Hmmm...I wonder what went wrong? And now you're making me curious about this show...I've never seen it! And I LOVE Top Chef, more than anything...I will have to check this out! xxSAS

  2. I love the test kitchens show as well, but I usually forget about it and I don't have a tivo. I've made these brownies before, it was my first semi-successful attempt at making brownies. The only part that failed was the cutting. I could not get the knife to cut without tearing the whole pan of brownies into a gummy oblong shapes. I now know that I need to chill the brownies before cutting. I'm sorry the brownies weren't what you wanted them to be! I have never had a brownie recipe that I was completely happy with. I have had the baking problem that you described here with banana bread, sometimes it works, sometimes it just stays raw in the center and ends up having a 2 hour bake time. Good luck next time!

  3. I've made this brownie recipe twice and both times mine were completely underdone. Even after extending the baking time by 20 minutes. I'm glad to see that it's not just me. Time to find a different recipe.

  4. I think it's silly on their part to suggest that brownies would be done baking after 30-35 minutes. Even junky boxed brownies take 40-45 minutes, minimum. And what kind of brownies take over two hours to cool?

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  5. had nothing but success and raves about these brownies ,,,maybe your oven temperature is off ....

  6. I have a few ideas on the brownies.

    When checking for doneness be sure to not hit a chocolate chunk when inserting. This may make it appear that they are under done, but really its just melty chocolate.

    Another thought, is perhaps the chocolate chunks were too small and the melted into the batter. This would throw off your fat content ratio and may make them appear to be underdone. ATK recommends 1/2 chunks which are quite large.

    Good luck!

  7. I've never cooked a batch that didn't take longer than the recipe. Most home ovens just don't keep good temperature. Professional bakers ovens circulate hot air and rotate the food in the high end ovens. I use a good oven thermometer to check my oven pre-heat and bake temps. My home gas oven thermostat usually needs to be set 10% higher than I want to achieve the constant correct temps.
    This recipe shows great technique in the use of the Dutched cocoa and expresso powder, and by blooming them in boiling water to release the flavor profile. Carry these over to other recipes.